Dr. Elizabeth Morgan is in another complicated battle. Released last month after spending 25 months in D.C. jail for defying a court order allowing ex-hubby Dr. Eric Foretich overnight visitation privileges with their daughter, Morgan claims she is now fighting for the right to tell her own story on film.
L.A.-based attorney Shelley Browning, who reps Morgan concerning dramatic rights, told us she'll be in D.C. this weekend to discuss with Morgan the more than 500 producer inquiries she said have come to the plastic surgeon. They'll also plan strategy with primary attorney Stephen Sachs to thwart what Browning refers to as several "pirated" versions of Morgan's story already in development.
Of chief concern to Browning is a telefilm being developed by Papazian/Hirsch Entertainment for CBS. Producer Bob Papazian insists that the project, currently without a title, is "not about Elizabeth Morgan. It's a generic story about a woman who goes on the run after accusing her husband of child molestation. There are many, many cases like that."
But Browning said that she and Morgan have read a first draft of the script, "and there is no question that it's Elizabeth's story. The character is an architect instead of a doctor, but other than that. . . . She has one daughter and she spends two years in jail. There is even a scene that duplicates an encounter between Eric and his first wife almost verbatim."
Calling the script "a skewed, distorted" version of the case, Browning considers the project--whose main character she charges comes off like "a lesbian and a schizophrenic"--potentially "very damaging" to Morgan's ongoing legal battle to prevent Foretich from having access to their daughter.
In late August, Morgan expressed "anguished objections" to the project in a letter to CBS programming veep Barbara Corday. Morgan stated that she had met with Papazian at the jail late last year, believing "he was only interested in making a fictional generic story about sex abuse and the children's underground." But she later read a USA Today piece in which Papazian "confirmed that he was in the process of developing 'The Elizabeth Morgan Story.'
". . . I could only hope that Mr. Papazian had not intentionally and fraudulently induced me with his misrepresentation to share with him very personal and agonizing information about my struggle and the abuse my daughter has suffered," Morgan wrote. "It now seems that I have, in fact, been deceived. . . ."
Papazian responded: "We had a conversation and I tried to buy rights. Elizabeth stated that she wants to do her story in book form and, of course, she is free to do so."
Browning, however, accused the producer of making widespread claims that he had indeed made a rights deal with Morgan.
Papazian said that he is waiting for a go-ahead on the CBS project. At press time, Corday had not returned our phone calls.
Browning feels that making a deal "with the right producer" for a sanctioned account of Morgan's real-life drama would inhibit others from tackling fictionalized versions.
"It's not a question of money," Browning insisted. "Elizabeth is $4 million in debt; she won't profit from selling the rights to her story. Whatever she might get will go into a foundation we're setting up for the protection of her daughter.
"It's a question of deciding on a candidate who can tell the story properly--preferably someone who has shown concern about child abuse in the past. . . ."
Browning said that Sally Field, Suzanne DePasse and "Adam" producer Linda Otto are among those with whom she has discussed a possible production.